IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the first time this season, Iowa got into trouble.
The Hawkeyes survived thanks to their defense, holding Grambling scoreless for over six minutes after somehow falling behind at home and pulling out an 85-74 win Thursday night.
“I thought we played a team that was ready,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa (3-0) committed 13 turnovers and Grambling capitalized, scoring 21 points off the takeaways. The Hawkeyes only committed 4 giveaways in the second half, but the Tigers kept the Hawkeyes on their toes, shooting 42 percent and hitting 10 3-pointers.
Enter Jack Nunge, who the Hawkeyes turned to for a consisted source of scoring. The true freshman finished the game turnover-free in his 27 minutes of play. Nunge dropped a career-best 17 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists.
“Credit my teammates, they were getting me the ball in places I could score,” he said. “I was knocking them down tonight.”
Anthony Gaston drained a trey, giving Grambling a 59-56 advantage midway through the half. McCaffery called a timeout and elected to give a different viewpoint to his players during the break.
“In that situation, let’s focus on what we’re doing, not screaming and yelling at what we’re not doing,” McCaffery said.
Isaiah Moss sparked a 14-0 Hawkeye run in the second half after he knocked down a 3-pointer, tying the game at 59.
Iowa’s break-away run lasted more than 6 minutes, and the Tigers couldn’t find an answer for Moss, Nunge, and Luka Garza, who almost notched his second double-double (13 points, 9 rebounds) in as many games.
Free throws sealed the deal for Iowa despite a late-surge by Grambling, which cut the Hawkeyes’ lead to 9 with more than a minute remaining.
The Hawkeyes out-shot the Tigers at the free throw line by 30 attempts. Iowa sank 27 of its shots, while Grambling finished perfect from the stripe.
Jordan Bohannon hit 9 of his 10 free throw attempts, including 7 in the game’s final 1:20.
Nunge recorded his best scoring outing of the season against the Tigers.
Listed at 6-11, Nunge displayed his touch from outside, knocking down 3 3-pointers, tied for a team-high (he also led the team in 3-point attempts with 5).
HE SAID IT
Moss’ run-sparking 3-pointer after Grambling State took the lead proved to be a key point in the contest, but the forward said he had some guidance from an outside source.
“I noticed (the defender) sagged off me. I wasn’t going to shoot it, but I heard somebody say ‘shoot it’, (and) I shot it,” Moss said.
CONNOR MCCAFFERY’S ILLNESS
Connor McCaffery missed Iowa’s first two games due to an ankle injury, but an illness kept him out of Thursday’s game.
Diagnosed with Mono, McCaffery will likely be out for the next few weeks, according to his coach.
Fran McCaffery noted that had Connor McCaffery been mono-free, he would have played tonight, as his ankle is good to go.
Iowa faces Louisiana on Nov. 20 in George Town, Cayman Islands.
Grambling State plays at South Dakota on Saturday.